ATLANTIC, Va. (AP/WBOC)- NASA says the Virginia launch of a rocket carrying an inflatable heat shield was a success after surviving a short trip through the earth's atmosphere at speeds of up to 7,600 mph.
The technology demonstration launch occurred shortly after 7 a.m. Monday at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. The agency said the Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment separated from the launch vehicle's nose cone about 280 miles over the Atlantic Ocean off North Carolina after a 20-minute flight. A high-speed Navy Stiletto boat is attempting to retrieve the 680-pound heat shield.
The purpose of the launch was to determine whether a space capsule can use an inflatable outer shell to slow and protect itself as it enters an atmosphere at hypersonic speed during a planetary entry and descent.
"It's great to see the initial results indicate we had a successful test of the hypersonic inflatable aerodynamic decelerator," said James Reuther, deputy director of NASA's Space Technology Program. "This demonstration flight goes a long way toward showing the value of these technologies to serve as atmospheric entry heat shields for future space."